I just received a feature/change request regarding my app that I subjectively found wrong, but I want to see what other people (or studies) have to say from their knowledge and/or experience.

My app is for having shopping lists. The main screen (the one you see immediately after opening the app) is the list of the items in your shopping list. On the bottom you have a bar with the name of the shopping list, tapping it opens the shopping lists screen. I'm attaching a preview screenshot on the bottom.

Right now, when the user is on the main, first screen (items screen) tapping back button on your device closes the app and takes you back to where you opened it. Normal Android behavior. My user suggested to make the back button return the user to the shopping lists screen. I as a programmer find this counterintuitive and not really consistent with how the navigation stack works.

This is his idea:

When viewing a list it is not intuituve to exit the app when the back button is pressed. It is intuitive to back out to the main screen with the list of all lists.

I have many lists and when I need to change lists I need to tap the bottom to open a drawer which is not clear. I have to learn this is the way and it isnt obvious.

Another way to look at it is why would the user want to exit the app at this point? If I want to exit the app, I hit the home button or the app switcher button. The way this function works now doesnt add anything to the app, it only detracts!

What do people expect from the back button in cases like that?

app screenshots

  • It sounds like your current app respects the android standards that most other apps follow, is that correct?
    – Mike M
    Dec 13, 2020 at 18:49
  • That is correct.
    – Albert221
    Dec 13, 2020 at 18:52
  • I think your client has a valid point. Mainly because of that bottom bar, which looks a bit off (is there a reason for that?). Either way, this is a prototypical research scenario, only user research will give you the correct answer, and you have to consider the stakeholder's needs as well
    – Devin
    Dec 13, 2020 at 20:27

5 Answers 5


Since Android is an almost ubiquitous platform across mobile, it makes sense to follow conventions that users going in and out of apps would expect.

I would refer to Jakobs Law on this, from the Neilsen Norman Group

From 10 usability heuristics

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform and industry conventions.

...people spend most of their time using digital products other than yours. Users’ experiences with those other products set their expectations. Failing to maintain consistency may increase the users' cognitive load by forcing them to learn something new.

  • So what is your verdict then? Keep the current behavior or change to the one that the user proposed?
    – Nash
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:26
  • 2
    I would keep current behavior, but... if there's a consistent concern from users over navigation, it might be a sign of something to change in the app, not in over riding the behavior (and expectations) of the platform controls. Have you heard this complaint consistently, or is it one user so far?
    – Mike M
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:30
  • @MikeM for now it came from only one user, but the issue is quite new, I'll be observing if it receives more "👍"s or not
    – Albert221
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:31
  • You can always do some simple usability tests, and see if this is a deeper problem. But I would emphasize that the platform controls belong to the platform, whereas you have more flexibility in evolving the app.
    – Mike M
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:33

I think there is a difference in the mental model you built on the app versus the mental model of your user.

You: There is a list of groceries. Each has a property 'shopping list'. You can bring up a drawer to see those properties.

User: I have a hierarchy. On top are the shopping lists, then come the individual items in the shopping lists. If I am in a shopping list, I would go back to the list of all shopping lists.

I would try to follow the mental model of your user but that would require more than just implement the back-behavior.


Your User is describing the UP button/affordance behaviour. You should implement that while leaving the BACK button behaviour as is. Being a "good citizen" app means doing things like relinquishing control back to the app your app was opened from. Some apps are greedy and have marketing team/product owner KPIs that are more important than the UX, those are the apps you typically find hijacking the multi-tasking flow to try to trap the User within their own domain (e.g. Twitter).


The back button is not used to close an app. The back button is used to go back to a previous screen, either while going through a series of screens or back up the app hierarchical structure of the app.

It appears that when the app opens it opens to the last screen which may include the list of lists screens. Because the screen that lists the numerous lists is at the top of the app hierarchical structure, it is odd to have a back button on that screen. A user would expect to have a back or close button on the particular list screen.

  • On Android, it is extremely common behavior for the system Back button (please note: system back, not an app element) to close an app. Apps that have good usability do this on the Home screen or maybe when the user does not have any more screens on the navigation stack.
    – LocalPCGuy
    Oct 5, 2022 at 21:00

After adding something on the list, it should show the list with the updated element added. It currently seems to go to a page that either has nothing to do with the users previous action. The back arrow should be used on secondary pages and it should take you back to either homepage or the previous page.

Revolut had this for months. You would open the app from a notification and in the page you had a back button that closed the app. They currently changed it so pressing the back button would take you to the previous page where the notification happened and it's what I consider to be a good behaviour. ( example it showed a stock increased it's value and now pressing the back button will take you to the trading page instead of closing the app)

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